Archive for September 2019

Gadgets :: September 25, 2019

by Gregg Ellman

I dislike the sound of my own voice, which is not uncommon. In fact some people don’t recognize their own voice when it’s played back to them. With that in mind, hearing my voice was by far the only bad part about reviewing the MXL APS podcasting bundle starter kit. 

Setting up and using the all-in-one system was as easy as any. What I wasn’t prepared for was having something to say for recordings. But it was just a test so I decided to  talk about my potential holiday shopping list, so in a short time I’ll be able to listen to my own podcast of shopping needs.

The kit includes a MXL BCD-1 Live Broadcast Dynamic Mic, MXL BCD-Stand and a MXL Mic Mate Pro for a high-quality XLR-to-USB connection.

The BCD-Stand looks similar to a desk lamp stand, with an articulating hinge arm you attach to the side of your desk or most any flat surface. Hardware is included so you can attach the arm to your desk for a more permanent placement. A XLR cable is built into the arm for a clean setup.

With flexibility to most any angle, once the microphone is attached to the stand you can adjust it to your preference.  

The Mic Mate Pro is an XLR-to-USB cable adapter so you can connect the microphone to your recording USB source; PC or Mac and with an adapter or it can connect to your  smartphone, tablet or any recording source.

The key to the system is the MXL BCD-1 Live Broadcast Dynamic Mic, which is impressive with its attractive looks and high quality glossy black metal design.  Attaching it to the stand with its swivel attachment and the XLR cable takes a second. Metal thumb screws are on the sides of the microphone for additional help to get the right angle.

Some specifics on the 6.2-by-2.0-inch dynamic microphone, it has a frequency response of 40 Hz-15 kHz, sensitivity is -54 dB re 1 V/Pa and an impedance of 600 ohms. It has a 3.5m headphone port for connecting your own headphone or earbuds for monitoring along with headphone and gain controls.

I have very little experience with podcasts, so I didn’t know what software to use. Since I have Apple’s GarageBand on my computer and I’ve had experience with it, it was my go-to choice.

The MXL APS podcasting bundle is essentially plug-and-play without the need for drivers or software. Once the hardware is connected and plugged into your source (MacBook Pro for testing) and you have something to talk about, you’re all set.

So now to my personal Podcast, which was kind of fun. I have no future in the Podcast world, but using the MXL APS Podcasting Bundle was as easy as can be with excellent results. As mentioned, I didn’t like the sound of my own voice, but once I got past that and made a recording I was happy with it but I let  my wife listen along for her opinion.

I got a two thumbs up from her on quality, but a thumbs down on my recorded words, “I know my wife will be listening to this test recording, so I’m choosing to not disclose what’s on my shopping list for her at this time.”

The clarity of the recordings were rich and clear, obviously during post production you can make any adjustments but I went with the direct recordings.

Together these products provide the essential hardware components you need to start a high-quality audio podcast, with great results and an incredibly easy and timeless setup. 

A hard black case with a form-fitting foam interior to safely store the microphone is included and a leather pouch is included for the cables and A USB cable is included to power the microphone. $299.95

Gadgets :: September 18, 2019

by Gregg Ellman

With the recent launch of the Apple iPhone 11, many accessories for its predecessor in the iPhone X line still fit and do their job on the new stylish hardware. But with something new, many do not want to dress it up in used clothing, not when third-party companies are rolling out all kinds of cool things to get.

Case-Mates press kit with a sampling of new cases arrived a few days before Apple told us about the new smartphone. The boxes referred the soon-to-be device as the “New 2019 iPhone 5.8-inch.”

With just a quick glance you knew Case-Mate made the stylish cases to make sure you look good. They features genuine materials, glittering crystals and 10-foot drop protection. 

The Confetti Waterfall ($39.99) easily caught my attention since the design changes every time the case moves, creating the dynamic, flowing, glitter effect.  Sealed inside is a bunch of color confetti dots with certified safe mineral oil to create the effect.

In addition to the looks and design, the case is compatible with wireless charging, has anti-scratch technology, and refined metallic buttons

Another of the many new attractive choices is the Tough Watercolor, with rainbow realness made with Individual droplets of ink on the case, which are suspended in resin to create a true masterpiece of colors. This results in a vivid saturated ink forms a rainbow swirl and each case is one-of-a-kind.

Case-Mate’s new collections for the Apple iPhone 11, 11 Pro and 11 Pro Max range from $19.99 to $59.99. 

Pelican’s new iPhone case lineup has the durability you would expect from Pelican, a company known for making some of the best and most durable storable solutions for most anything needing protection from the elements.

Among the new choices is the Pelican Traveler Phone Case ($50), a  lightweight case featuring reinforced three-layer construction and a critical flexible interior bumper, which will absorb any force of impact. It’s constructed with fortified polycarbonate, so the material shell provides the upmost protection to your iPhone. 

The Pelican Protector EMS (Easy Mount System) is a phone case system ($80). It leads off with the Pelican’s rugged protector case with an impact-resistant outer shell combined with a shock-absorbing rubber lining (created and reserved for first responders and extreme-enthusiasts) and works with Qi wireless chargers.

What makes it unique is the integrated Easy Mount System, which includes detachable magnetic battery for power on-the-go for 38-51percent additional power.

Another choice is the Pelican Protector EMS Vent Mount featuring  the top-selling Protector design with integrated EMS steel plate and integrated EMS vent mount. Installation is simple and can be set up in both portrait and landscape angles. The mount can also be used as a handy media viewing kickstand.

They are all backed by Pelican’s legendary lifetime guarantee and drop-tested to military specs prices for the new cases range from $30 to $80

Satechi has a new charging solution with Power Deliver technology for charging a pair of devices simultaneously.

The 72W Type-C PD car charger ($29.99) and the 6-foot USB-C to Lightning cable (Apple MFI certified) cable are a perfect combination and snap in and out quick and easy, but remain secure when connected. The new cable ($24.99) also supports data transfer up to 480 Mbps. 

You get both a USB-C and standard USB-A port on the car charger, which fits into a standard cigarette lighter port in any vehicle. With the C port, charging is up to 60W for a fast and safe charge, which the USB-A delivers up to 12W.

To ensure safe charging, The charger is built with short circuit and over temperature protection.

The braided nylon cable ($24.99) is built to not bend or tangle, so it works when  you need it.

Gadgets :: September 11, 2019

by Gregg Ellman

Often I get to review gadgets that I can’t write about until the parent company lifts the announcement embargo with the official release. And often it’s frustrating simply because I’m testing something that is so good that I want to tell people about it right then and there, but I can’t.

That’s the case with just announced Sennheiser MOMENTUM wireless (Bluetooth 5) headphones from Sennheiser. After using the headphones, I’d have to flip a coin to decide what’s better, the sound or the built-in technology. Both are off-the-charts great.

Sennheiser is one of those companies who I can say in my experience doesn’t seem to miss when it comes to impressive audio solutions. I had the press release for this latest one a few days before my review unit arrived and a feature I loved before I tried em’ out is the auto on/off, which are a great feature in true wireless earbuds.

Just unfold the headphones to get em’ on (fold them up to shut off) but what makes this feature so cool is the auto on/off feature, so that when you put the headphones on the music plays, when you take them off it pauses. Go back and forth all you want, it works. Trust me, I tried to go fast or slow and stump it. The MOMENTUM’s won that game by far.

The MOMENTUM has stunning looks with genuine sheep leather, features an adjustable soft padded leather headband, padded earcups and gets my overall “wow”  factor in looks before a tune was played.

As I said, Sennheiser doesn’t miss and they kept to my opinion with this third generation of the MOMENTUM line in what’s most important, the sound.

As is usual for my testing, I tried the headphones, which have 42mm drivers, in a steel tube at 34,000-feet but instead of Apple music, I was watching the Elton John movie biography Rocketman. While the movie itself didn’t impress me, listening to the audio in high volume on the new MOMENTUM’s was outstanding. After the movie I did troll around with steaming music and with any genre playlist, the sound at head-banging levels or low level and had incredible clarity at any volume.

Another feature I loved and worked to perfection is the active noise cancellation and a transparent hearing function, which I had turned on to block out the airplane engine noise. If your walking city blocks you might want to have it turned on (a great option) so you’re more aware of what’s around you, such as oncoming traffic while crossing a street.

Controlling volume, tracks, and answering calls are all done with easy-to-access buttons on the outside of the earcups. The headphones also feature access to voice assistants Google Assistant and Siri, with Amazon Alexa integration coming soon. Test results with the headphones for handsfree calls were heard crystal clear on my end and I’m happy to say my mom heard me crystal clear on her end.

With Sennheiser’s Smart Control app (iOS and Android)  it takes seconds to customize features and sound in the headphones including an equalizer and a choice of three noise cancellation modes. 

Like any other gadget, headphones are easy to lose but Sennheiser has put a significant piece of technology in this latest edition of the MOMENTUM’s with the Tile Tracker. Along with the app, it talks with the integrated Bluetooth Tile Tracker to help locate them within range.

Audio 3.5 mm and USB-C charging cables are included along with a travel case for the fold-up headphones.

If you couldn’t tell already, I’m a fan of the MOMENTUM. Get them for yourself, or maybe first on the list for the upcoming holidays. $399.95, available in black now with a sandy white model available in November

Gadgets :: September 4, 2019

by Gregg Ellman

Creative’s Nova Wi-Fi multi-room smart speaker is a great multi-function device, with portability to carry from room to room with ease.

There are a lot of great features, but what stands out is the room-filling sound with a 5-driver speaker. When I say room-filling, I mean your average household room. The volume cranks up to a high level with good sound at high and low settings. The sound system includes dual bass radiators, dual far field drivers and a built-in woofer.

The battery-powered speaker is good for up to 7-hours of use, but will vary depending on the volume and how much you use the other functions.

For wireless, the Nova has Bluetooth and Wi-Fi along with an Aux-in connection. The Nova’s Wi-Fi connects to your home Wi-Fi for the-free standing speaker access Amazon Alexa, which can be as simple as getting a weather report or selecting a playlist from iHeartRadio. 

If your home is equipped with smart home devices, Nova can access Alexa to control lights, thermostats or even open the garage door. 

Another-eye catching feature is that the outside of the Nova glows with a 16.8 million color ambient lamp, which glows different colors for mood lighting or have the sleep timer just fade the light and music off in the time you do the same. And if you really like going to bed with the music/light show, you can set it to wake up to the same.

A Sound and Light Spa feature plays relaxation sounds, which can be customized as a pre-set with the app.

I only used one Nova for my testing but according to Creative’s website, you can “Play music on one Nova or synchronize Nova speakers wirelessly via Wi-Fi. Stream music directly online without connecting your phone, so the music goes on even when there is a call.”

With the easy to use Sound Blaster InterConnect companion app, your smartphone turns into your music remote control to choose the music you want and in which rooms rooms equipped with Nova’s you want it to play.

A carrying handle and an iP55 water and dust resistant outside are great portability features for indoors, on the beach or getting caught at a picnic rain shower. $139.99

The Mixcder HD901 premium Bluetooth headphones are not going to produce the  sound like some of the top of the line high priced headphones. Nor will they cost hundreds of dollars. But the Mixcder HD901 is gonna sound pretty good and make you even happier when you see the price.

They weigh just 5-ounces and features everything you need. This includes 40mm drives, an adjustable headband, soft ear cups and folding for great portability.

Mixcder gets the smooth sound from an advanced CSR chip, which  delivers high-definition, clean, smooth audio with a balanced mid-range  and deep bass.

The headphones have Bluetooth or you can used them wired with the included 3.5mm audio cable in the Aux in port to play music with a direct wired connection. Another option, which I almost never see in headphones is a memory card slot built right into the headphones.

The TF Card slot can take you loaded memory card for MP3 music. And before you ask, the card slot will also take a more commonly used MircroSD memory card, which has the same dimensions. With the memory card feature, tunes are really on-the-go without a media source.

The Mixcder HD901 also has built-in microphones for answering handsfree calls. $18.99

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